Today happens to be April Fool's Day and Easter Day: April 1, 2018.
In my last post I discussed the idea of valid doubt or skepticism. Here I will discuss foolish doubt and foolish belief.
The Hebrew songwriter, King David of Israel, wrote of foolish skeptics in Psalm 14
The fool says in his heart,“There is no God.”They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;there is no one who does good.The Lord looks down from heavenon all mankindto see if there are any who understand,any who seek God.All have turned away, all have become corrupt;there is no one who does good,not even one.Do all these evildoers know nothing?1
And in the first chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians from Paul of Tarsus he wrote to them,
We don't have to look too closely to see the contrasts between these passages. However, did you notice the similarities? Hmmm.... Let's discuss. David is speaking of fools who purposely remove the idea of God from their palates. Notice that they are saying in their hearts that their is no God. This should invoke in us the idea of purposeful suppression--borne of desire of the heart. They are not merely making an intellectual and scientific discovery and reporting back the data. In the rest of the Psalm we see what their reasoning is for making this heartfelt confession: evil. To quote St. Paul again, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them."3 Most honest men and women will admit (maybe not publicly), when asked whether they would want God to exist, will say no. Why not? Isn't God a crutch for the weak and a genie for the feeble-minded? The answer is obvious to the earnest truth seeker. These fools would deny the genie or the crutch because of their wickedness.For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.2
To better understand we can look at the first law of thermodynamics. This law tells us that heat is energy and cannot be destroyed but merely transferred. In much the same way, since God can not be destroyed, he must be displaced. What can an ant living in an ant farm do but develop a sort of psychological myopia when he has a desire to escape the all seeing eye of the 9-year old child who created that farm? So, the wicked persons described by King David are clearly believers in a contrived skepticism, but what about the persons described by Paul in his letter to ancient Corinth?
Paul, in verse 18, talks about a message which is foolishness to or with those who are perishing. This also can and should be thought of in the same humanly derived sense of discernment as the fool in Psalm 14. To the people who reject the message about Jesus' death and resurrection (the thing which signifies and solidifies the metaphysical implications of that death for humanity) it is absurd and foolish. That is, as far as they are concerned it is to be assumed as culturally foolish. This is the same in any culture--whether the culture's truth stems from philosophers, priests, scientists or shaman--it still stems from the culture. In the next verse (19) we see a quote from the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. Here God might seem to be saying that he will in fact destroy intelligence and wisdom! God forbid it! In fact, what it says is that he will destroy the wisdom of the "wise men". It should be clear that God is in search of destroying that wisdom which is creation-made and contrary to the greater, more panoramic knowledge and wisdom of the creator. So, at the end of the day the believer in the message of Christ's death and resurrection is opposed to the creaturely understanding of what is true and possible in their known world. Christians, according to Paul, are fools in relation to the world, but wise in relation to the culturally transcendent knowledge of God.
If today is April Fool's day, then maybe it is the day on which we need to discover which kind of fool we are. One of the best ways might be to talk about the systematic, bottom up, minimal facts, or lowest common denominator approach of resurrection historian Gary Habermas.
In Gary's career he has developed a method of researching the facts of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that only focus on those facts that are accepted by all those who are intellectually honest--those who are not philosophically committed to the denial of Jesus at all costs. He has a clever way of finding out how many of modern scholars conclude that the necessary facts of the resurrection are undeniably true history. It's not that clever sounding after you hear it, but here it is: find the percentage of liberal, skeptical scholars who believe the bare minimum of the facts required to believe the resurrection of Jesus without a reasonable doubt and add that to the 100% of conservative scholars who affirm the same. (For reasonable doubt, though, refer back to Psalm 14.)
Habermas ultimately comes away with 4 necessary historical facts of the resurrection that have well over 90% of all scholars (liberal and conservative) affirming their historicity. Those facts are (1) Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught about the Kingdom of Heaven, (2a) Jesus of Nazareth was hung on a cross, (2b) Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for claiming his Kingship, (3) his students had inexplicable, genuine encounters with what they believed to be the risen Jesus of Nazareth and (4) an enemy skeptic of Jesus and his students, Paul of Tarsus, claimed to have had an encounter with the risen Jesus which he believed was 100% undeniable. Remember, these are not things that Christian apologist Gary Habermas thinks are historically true, but facts that 90+% of all New Testament historians believe are historically true!
Being honest in our approach to discussing the resurrection requires us to first to decide whether we are skeptics at all costs (fools of the heart) or willing to be led by the evidence even when our heart desires the opposite and believe in that which seems contrary to our current cultural epistemic model (fools to the wise). At the end of the day we must admit that anyone who denies the resurrection in light of the evidence is somebody who who has a deep desire--an ulterior motive--to deny the truth.
1Psalm 14:1-4; Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Bible Hub
2 1 Corinthisans 1:18-25; ibid.
3 Romans 1:18-19; ibid.